Could More Civil Society Involvement Increase Public Support for Climate Policy-Making? Evidence from a Survey Experiment in China
Global Environmental Change 40: 1–12
Posted: 30 Nov 2017 Last revised: 12 Dec 2017
Date Written: September 1, 2016
Governments need the support of their citizens in order to be able to adopt and implement ambitious environmental protection policies. Recent research on liberal democratic systems has found evidence that increased civil society organization involvement can help increase the popular legitimacy of (that is, public support for) such policy-making. We are interested in whether this finding is also relevant to other types of political systems. To find out we implemented a survey experiment in China (N = 932). The empirical focus is on climate policy, a paradigmatic global governance effort, in which China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, plays a key role. The results show that people welcome the involvement of civil society actors – with the exception of business civil society organizations – in climate policy-making, though most participants in our survey experiment did not favor civil society organizations over government agencies. They also show, however, that moving from non-inclusion to inclusion of civil society organizations improves people’s assessment of transparency and representational quality of climate governance (two key facets of input or procedural legitimacy) by 14 and 24% respectively. Our findings suggest that – even though few civil society organizations are currently independent from government in China – increased civil society organizations involvement in climate policy-making could contribute to enhancing public support for climate policy. In view of great challenges China faces in implementing its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) within the Paris Agreement framework, its climate policy could thus benefit from greater involvement of civil society organizations.
Keywords: Civil society organization, Non-governmental organization, Climate change policy, Survey experiment, China
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